Co Down’s Gallagher wins gold in Sochi
Visually-impaired skier claims first ever Winter Paralympic gold for Britain
Kelly Gallagher (left) and guide Charlotte Evans in action during the Women’s Super G Visually Impaired race. Photograph: Vassil Donev/EPA
Kelly Gallagher was on top of the world today after making Winter Paralympic history. The visually-impaired skier Gallagher and her guide Charlotte Evans rebuilt their shattered confidence following Saturday’s downhill disappointment to win a first ever Winter Paralympic title for Britain with victory in the Super-G in Sochi.
It sealed a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the pair, who two days earlier had come home dead last, a result which Gallagher admitted had destroyed her faith in their ability.
Gallagher and Evans were the first of the six pairs down and had an anxious wait to see if their time would be good enough. Slovakia’s Henrieta Farkasova, the downhill gold medallist, was expected to go quicker, but crashed, and when Australian Melissa Perrine also failed to finish, gold was secure.
“It was really hard work coming from downhill into Super-G because they are similar speed events,” Gallagher, the 28-year-old from Bangor in Co Down, said. “I lost all of my faith in myself, in Charlotte, in our processes, in what we were doing and I was like, ‘I only have a couple of hours to put this together, because we’re going to be back on snow and we’ve got to race’.
“Charlotte said to me, ‘You’ve got to make a decision to turn it around and forget about all the pressure that’s on us’ and it has worked out. We’ve had to do that so many times along the road when we have been training, whether I have been scared of something or I have been injured and physically hurt and mentally hurt.
“I can’t stress how hard we’ve worked. It has been horrible and there have been days where I have said, ‘What am I doing to myself? I’m not even enjoying my life,’ but we have kept on going. We’ve had to pull ourselves together so many times that I guess all that was training for what happened from our downhill to the Super-G.
“We wouldn’t have got here if it wasn’t for Charlotte. When I haven’t believed in myself, she has believed in us and believed in herself.”
Such was the duo’s determination to make amends for Saturday’s run that Evans was furious with Gallagher as they crossed the line, feeling she had not followed her directions. “I was yelling at her the whole way down,” Evans said. “I know how we can gain speed and there were parts that Kelly didn’t listen to a word that I said.”
It was joy unconfined, though, as the results came in and confirmed the pair’s time of one minute 28.72 seconds would edge out Russia’s Aleksandra Frantceva by 0.22secs.